Hiawatha National Forest, Michigan

Photo: Milkweed Inn

It’s always surprising what you find while foraging. Blueberries. Elderflower. Maple leaf. Milkweed. Oyster mushrooms. Pine. Ramps. Spruce tips. Strawberries. Trout lily. Wood sorrel. It’s even more amazing what a talented chef can do with these wild ingredients.

Iliana Regan is one of those impressive chefs. After working with some of the best chefs in Chicago, including Grant Achatz, Regan opened Elizabeth in 2012. The restaurant’s menu was locally focused, super seasonal, and foraged whenever possible. A year later, it earned its first Michelin star. But that wasn’t close enough to the land for Regan. So she and her wife, a sommelier, purchased an old hunting cabin on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. They renovated the rooms, redid the kitchen, and added a tent and an Airstream to create a forest retreat. Then they started booking all-inclusive getaways on summer weekends. Milkweed Inn’s first season, 2019, sold out in 48 hours.

Milkweed Inn isn’t an easy destination. It’s six hours from both Chicago and Detroit. It lies on the edge of Hiawatha National Forest, an undeveloped area along the shores of Lakes Superior, Michigan, and Huron. And its potholed driveway demands a four-wheel-drive vehicle.

The 150-acre property is peaceful. Jack pines and silver birches fill the land. The Sturgeon River is just steps away for fly fishing and kayaking. Three guest bedrooms are in the pine-log cabin. They’re filled with vegetable books and Pendleton blankets. The Wall Tent sits on a steep hill. It features a wood-burning stove and a bed draped with a mosquito net. While the Airstream has antlers above its little table.

The most important part of the weekend is obviously food. On Friday night, there’s a casual dinner of homemade pierogis or build-your-own pizza. Breakfasts are light and usually include sourdough. Then there’s Saturday night. A single chef in the kitchen. A long wooden table. A 15-course dinner. Food that’s been charred, confited, fermented, foraged, salt-roasted, and smoked. Unexpected combinations. Playful wines. It’s a night you’ll never forget—if you can snag a reservation. Milkweed Inn is fully booked through 2021. See what an extraordinary chef can create.

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